Rhamphorhynchus

Name: Rhamphorhynchus ‭(‬Beak Snout‭)‬.
Phonetic: Ram-foe-rink-us.
Named By: Christian Erich Hermann von Meyer‭ ‬-‭ ‬1846.
Synonyms: Odontorhynchus longicaudus,‭ ‬Ornithocephalus muensteri,‭ ‬O.‭ ‬longicaudus,‭ ‬O.‭ ‬lavateri,O.‭ ‬gemmingi,‭ ‬O.‭ ‬giganteus,‭ ‬O.‭ ‬grandis,‭ ‬O.‭ ‬secundarius,‭ ‬Pterodactylus muensteri,‭ ‬P.‭ ‬longicaudus,‭ ‬P.‭ ‬lavateri,‭ ‬P.‭ ‬gemmingi,‭ ‬P.‭ ‬lavateri,‭ ‬P.‭ ‬hirundinaceus,‭ ‬P.‭ ‬hirundinaceus,‭ ‬P.‭ ‬giganteus,‭ ‬P.‭ ‬grandis,‭ ‬Pteromonodactylus phyllurus,‭ ‬Rhamphorhynchus longicaudus,‭ ‬R.‭ ‬gemmingi,‭ ‬R.‭ ‬suevicus,‭ ‬R.‭ ‬hirundinaceus,‭ ‬R.‭ ‬curtimanus,‭ ‬R.‭ ‬longimanus,‭ ‬R.‭ ‬meyeri,‭ ‬R.‭ ‬phyllurus,‭ ‬R.‭ ‬longiceps,‭ ‬R.‭ ‬grandis,‭ ‬R.‭ ‬kokeni,‭ ‬R.‭ ‬megadactylus,‭ ‬R.‭ ‬carnegiei.
Classification: Chordata,‭ ‬Reptilia,‭ ‬Pterosauria,‭ ‬Rhamphorhynchidae,‭ ‬Rhamphorhynchinae.
Species: Species:‭ ‬R.‭ ‬muenst
Type: Piscivore/Insectivore.
Size: 1.81‭ ‬meter wingspan,‭ ‬1.26‭ ‬meters long.
Known locations: Germany,‭ ‬Portugal,‭ ‬Tanzania.
Time period: Oxfordian to Kimmeridgian of the Jurassic.
Fossil representation: Dozens of individuals,‭ ‬some including impressions of soft tissue.

       Rhamphorhynchus is one of the classic pterosaurs that have been known to science since the early days of palaeontology.‭ ‬It had what appears to have been a sizeable distribution and aside from the above locations,‭ ‬Rhamphorhynchus specimens have also been attributed to other European countries like the United Kingdom.‭ ‬Unfortunately however,‭ ‬these specimens are sometimes no more than fossilised teeth.
       The best preserved and most numerous examples hail from Germany where Rhamphorhynchus was first discovered.‭ ‬Not only do these remains include complete specimens,‭ ‬but also impressions of the wings,‭ ‬revealing their placement and texture.‭ ‬Specimens also display potential dimorphism between males and females.‭
       The jaws of Rhamphorhynchus are filled with sharp needle like teeth,‭ ‬twenty in the top,‭ ‬fourteen in the bottom.‭ ‬When the jaws closed the teeth would intermesh,‭ ‬maximising grip on prey.‭ ‬These jaws have led to the perception that Rhamphorhynchus used them to snatch up fish as it skimmed over the top of the water,‭ ‬although it‭’‬s not out of the question that it could also have caught larger insects.‭
       Rhamphorhynchus has been subject to a lot of study to try and find out more about its life.‭ ‬One area has focused upon possible sexual dimorphism between males and females.‭ ‬This is indicated by how long the skull is to the humerus,‭ ‬with different specimens falling into two distinct groups of larger and smaller heads.‭ ‬This is not conclusive proof of dimorphism,‭ ‬but does reinforce the possibility.
       Study of the scleral rings has also indicated a nocturnal lifestyle.‭ ‬It is difficult to say with certainty if pterosaurs were warm or cold blooded,‭ ‬but a nocturnal heat source if required could be rocks.‭ ‬Because rocks have a high thermal capacity,‭ ‬they take a long time to warm up in the heat of the sun.‭ ‬However,‭ ‬because they take a long time to warm up they also take a long time to cool down,‭ ‬staying warm to the touch for several hours after night fall.‭ ‬If cold blooded,‭ ‬a nocturnal pterosaur could warm up by‭ '‬hugging‭' ‬a rock with its wings to absorb more heat.‭ ‬If Rhamphorhynchus was nocturnal,‭ ‬it would have avoided direct competition with other pterosaurs that were diurnal. CAT scans of Rhamphorhynchus skulls have also allowed for reconstruction of the the inner ear.‭ ‬This has revealed that unlike some other pterosaurs,‭ ‬Rhamphorhynchus typically flew with its head horizontally level‭ (‬parallel‭) ‬to the ground.
       A huge number of species once existed for Rhamphorhynchus,‭ ‬however many of these came about from the use of Pterodactylus as a wastebasket taxon.‭ ‬It was not until notable differences began to be pointed out that Rhamphorhynchus became separate.‭ ‬Still a large number of differing species existed,‭ ‬or so it was thought until a‭ ‬1995‭ ‬study by Chris Bennet revealed that a great many of these specimens actually represented different life stages of the same species.‭ ‬With the revelation that these remains were just juveniles,‭ ‬sub-adults and adults of the same creature,‭ ‬the species list was shortened to just a handful of names.‭ ‬Of these only R.‭ ‬muensteri is generally considered to be true to the genus.‭ ‬The other remaining species which include R.‭ ‬jessoni,‭ ‬R.‭ ‬intermedius,‭ ‬are considered subjective synonyms,‭ ‬while R.‭ ‬tendagurensis thought to be a nomen dubium.‭ ‬Although these species are sometimes referred to,‭ ‬their future validity is uncertain.
       Because it is now accepted that the many various specimens represent the same species,‭ ‬it has also revealed valuable insights of changing morphology with age.‭ ‬The jaws of Rhamphorhynchus juveniles‭ ‬are‭ ‬short and blunter than they were in adult specimens.‭ ‬Adults also had shorter and more robust teeth to facilitate larger prey capture that may have broken weaker teeth. Rhamphorhynchus also had a vane on the end of its tail and in juveniles was lancet shaped‭ (‬like a double edged scalpel‭)‬.‭ ‬As the individual grew,‭ ‬the vane would become diamond shaped before becoming a triangle when full grown.

Further reading
- Pterodactylus (Rhamphorhynchus) gemmingi aus dem Kalkschiefer von Solenhofen. - Palaeontographica 1: 1–20. - H. von Meyer - 1846.
- Ein Exemplar von Rhamphorhynchus mit Resten von Schwimmhaut. - Sitzungs-Berichte der bayerischen Akademie der Wissenschaften mathematisch naturwissenschaftlichen Abteilung 1927: 29–48. - F. Broili - 1927.
- Odontorhynchus aculeatus novo. gen. novo. sp., Ein neuer Rhamphorhynchide von Solnhofen. - Neues Jahrbuch für Mineralogie, Geololgie, und Paläontologie Beilage-Band 75:543-564. - E. Stolley - 1936.
- Untersuchungen über die Gattung Rhamphorhynchus. - Neues Jahrbuch für Mineralogie, Geologie und Palaeontologie, Beilage-Band 77: 455–506. - Koh - 1937.
- Die Rhamphorhynchoidea (Pterosauria) der Oberjura-Plattenkalke Süddeutschlands. - Palaeontographica, A 148: 1-33, 148: 132-186, 149: 1-30. - P. Wellnhofer - 1975.
- A statistical study of Rhamphorhynchus from the Solnhofen Limestone of Germany: Year-classes of a single large species. - Journal of Paleontology 69: 569–580. - S. C. Bennett - 1995.
- Life history of Rhamphorhynchus inferred from bone histology and the diversity of pterosaurian growth strategies. - In Soares, Daphne. PLoS ONE 7 (2): e31392. - E. Prondvai, K. Stein, O. Ősi, M. P. Sander - 2012.
- The Late Jurassic pterosaur Rhamphorhynchus, a frequent victim of the ganoid fish Aspidorhynchus?. - PLoS ONE 7 (3): e31945. - E. Frey, & H. Tischlinger - 2012.



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